Slowly but surely public opinion is moving away from me – and all of us who are still trying to argue we do not have an Islam problem. People have seen the Trojan Horse schools. They have seen the Rotherham abuses. They have seen the political abuses in the rotten borough that is Tower Hamlets. And again, they have seen terror and bloodshed brought to the streets of Europe.
And yes, we can deny it. We can protest eloquently that these murders had no basis in faith. Or “true faith”. But on a monthly basis now, we are seeing people committing terrible crimes, and saying they are doing so in the name of Islam. And people, understandably, are starting to believe them.
Which leaves us with a choice. We can stick our heads in the sand – again – and continue to deny there is any issue at all. And in so doing, cede the debate to those advocating a witch hunt for the fifth columnists amongst us. Or, as I wrote a couple of months ago, we can start having a serious and open discussion about how and why we are failing to integrate significant elements of our Muslim communities fully and effectively into our society.
Because we cannot end up in our bunkers again. Not when then weapons of choice are not words, but Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers.
This is an argument that mustn’t lead to us being forced to take sides. Because there are no sides to take. Who do we line up with this time? Ukip, who are opportunistically scrambling to pile thinly disguised Islamaphobia on top of their totally undisguised racism? The English Defence League, and their self-styled defence patrols? The lunatics who have massacred 13 people over a drawing? Or “moderates” like Asghar Bukhari, who went on Sky News this morning to explain how it was wrong to see the attacks on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo “through the prism of an attack on freedom of speech”.
We have to start the debate now. While there is still time for people of good will to reach as sensible accommodation. To start to find answers to what it is that is driving us and our Muslim neighbours apart.
We cannot fall back on the divisive and lazy argument that Islam is, by definition, a religion built upon hate. But nor can we continue to pretend that Islam is not becoming a cause of division within our communities.
After the horrific events of the last 48 hours I want to ride with you. But I also need to know you want to ride with me.
I'm with you, Dan.
A very sensible and balanced article from Dan Hodges.
Islamophobia frightens me. I read all the anger and fear of some people and I worry where it is going to lead. Islam raises hard questions, but we can find answers to them. We need to keep the faith in a tolerant and decent multi-cultural Britain.